Incessant notifications, Beacon, and zombies aside, one of Facebook 's greatest utilities is finding people online, and it's not just for students anymore. Chances are your grandmother set up a Facebook account this year, so all those annoying emails might be worth tracking down your best friend when you were 9 years old who moved to Florida on Facebook. Okay, fine, you can't talk finding people online without mentioning the big G.
Finally, if you run across folks online you want to know more about often, search a ton of engines for someone's name with the Who Is This Person? Firefox extension. For more online sleuthing resources, check out Wendy's great tutorial on searching public records online. To make yourself more findable?
Have a say in what Google says about you. Also, many of these services let you "claim" your name and add information to your results. Do a search for your own name and click the link that says, in effect, "Is this you? Does the current crop of people search engines make you want to change your name, fail you entirely, or help you get in touch? Do pollsters miss any other large groups because cell users? Can polls be automated? So polls done by human beings are more reliable? Is it hard to find people who will answer the questions?
Can polls be conducted over the Internet? Does it matter when the poll is conducted? Can they tell who will actually vote?
What does 'margin of error' mean? What are methodolgical errors?
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Do pollsters present the actual numbers observed? Which polls do you use? What algorithm formula is used to compute the map?
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Should I believe poll results? Who conducts polls? Polling companies. These are specialized companies part of whose business is conducting public opinion polls. There are a few polling companies that operate nationally and many local ones.
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A number of universities also have a polling institute since they have an abundance of the key ingredient: cheap labor. The websites of some of the major polling organizations are listed below. Note that most of them do not give much useful data for free. To get the numbers, you have to buy a subscription, in which case a wealth of data is provided. Typically, the customer contacts the polling organization and places an order for a poll, specifying what questions are to be asked, when the poll will be conducted, how many people will be interviewed, and how the results will be presented.
The pollster then hires a call center to call the agreed upon number of people and, ask them the questions. Some call centers use computers to make the calls and ask the questions, with the respondent keying in the answers. Usually, the interview begins with easy questions to assure the respondent that he or she is not going to be embarrassed. For example: "I am going to read you the names of some well-known political figures.
For each one, please tell me if you have a favorable, neutral, or unfavorable opinion of that person.
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The answers are typed into a computer as they are received. When each interviewer has the requisite number of valid interviews, he or she transmits the results to the pollster. The pollster then weights the various demographic categories to make sure there are enough men, enough retirees, enough Democrats, enough Catholics, enough college graduates, and so on.
The pollster prepares a final report, breaking down the results by age, gender, income, education, political party, and other ways. The more people called, the more accurate the poll, but the more expensive it is.
For state polls, valid interviews are typical but it may require calling 10 times these numbers to get valid interviews. All polls are based on the idea of a random sample. Two methods are used to get the sample. The first is called RDD Random Digit Dialing in which the pollster carefully chooses an area code and prefix together, the first six digits of a telephone number and then picks the next four digits at random. Due to the way the telephone system is organized, people with the same area code and next three digits generally live close together, although this property is changing.
This method generates a good random sample since it hits all in the selected area with equal probability, including unlisted numbers. Unfortunately, it also hits business phones, fax machines, and modems. The second method takes telephone numbers from a telephone book or list and uses them, or sometimes randomizes the final digit to hit unlisted numbers.
Yes if they are dialing the numbers manually; No if a computer is doing the dialing. This fact means that people who have only a cell phone and no land line will be systematically excluded from polls with automatic dialing. Since cell-only people tend to be mostly young people, the pollsters intentionally overweight the year olds to compensate for this effect, but as more people drop their landlines, it is becoming a serious issue. Here is a report on the issue.
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Increasingly many people have phone service over cable or on Skype. Calling them is a bit tricky because customers can often choose any area code they want. Someone living in Seattle can choose a Florida area code so his mother can call him as a local call. But some still flout these rules. Some companies may use online or paper phone books to find numbers to target with sales calls.
Ask for your phone number to be excluded from directories — this will stop companies from finding out your number in this way. If you must provide your phone number to a company, then ask it not to call you for marketing purposes or to pass your number on to third parties. Finally, contact companies you already receive unwanted sales calls from and ask to be removed from their call lists.
If you have caller display and an answer phone, consider only answering calls from numbers you recognise. Legitimate callers are likely to leave a message. Many cold calls come from abroad, so unless you need to receive international calls, ask your phone operator if it can block calls from international numbers it may charge for this service. You may also wish to block calls from withheld numbers, although this may prevent some calls you want to receive. For example, if a friend or relative is calling from their workplace, this number may be withheld.
Alternatively, you can also buy some home phones with call blocking features built in to them. See which cordless phones we recommend for this task in our round-up of the top five call blocking home phones. These all offer varying degrees of sophistication.
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